Not once, but twice Bethany Montgomery thought she was sending the Wilson High Rams to overtime.
And in both moments she and the Rams had their hearts ripped out in the most peculiar of circumstances.
In an ending as controversial and it was climatic, fourth-ranked Wilson fell just short of Seattle Prep, 36-33, in the Class 3A state girls semifinals in the Tacoma Dome on Friday afternoon.
The Rams saw their best season in school history end in stunning fashion. Meanwhile, what can you say about the No. 5 Panthers? They may not love close games, but they know how to take control of them.
Seattle Prep will meet Metro League rival and second-ranked Cleveland for a fourth time at 3 p.m. today with the state title on the line after having lost the three previous games to the Eagles by a combined nine points.
“Hey, bring it on,” Cleveland coach Stephanie Wheeler-Smith said. “Not surprised they (Panthers) are here.”
Many feel the Rams should have been there, too – or at least duked it out in overtime against Seattle Prep for the right.
The essential question on the west-end court was where was Montgomery’s foot on the Rams’ final shot with two seconds remaining, and Wilson trailing 34-31?
Wilson’s standout said she was certain her foot was on the 3-point line with the clock running down. She said she pivoted back and fired away over two Seattle Prep defenders.
“I made sure,” she said. “In that situation, you make sure.”
As soon as the ball swished through the basket, and for the few seconds after that, everyone thought the game was tied at 34.
“I was thinking overtime,” Seattle Prep coach Michelle Hall said.
But somewhere amid Wilson players jumping up and down, the official near the Rams’ bench immediately ran from his spot and called the shot a long two-point attempt.
Going from thinking she tied the game to hearing the worst news of her basketball life, Montgomery went ballistic, taking off her jersey near the team bench. She was assessed an automatic technical foul.
Seattle Prep’s Holly Tonry made both free throws. The Panthers inbounded the ball, ran out the clock and ended up with a hard-earned win.
Before Montgomery’s final shot, the Rams were in the same predicament with seven seconds to go. The Eastern Washington signee had the basketball in her hands on that occasion, too – and was knocked down trying to get off a long 3-pointer.
One referee called a foul, which would have given the senior three free throws to tie the game.
But another official overruled him, instead granting Wilson coach Michelle Birge a timeout.
“He did not signal for timeout prior to the whistle for the foul,” Birge said. “The foul (call) should hold precedent.”
But it didn’t for the Rams, who had a 10-point lead late in the third quarter, but went scoreless for nearly six minutes in the fourth quarter to lose it all.
“Hats off to Seattle Prep,” Birge said. “They deserve to be in the championship game. We deserve to be in the championship game. We will be back.”
Wilson will play Bellevue for the third/fifth place trophies at 11:15 a.m. today.
Cleveland 52, Bellevue 43: The No. 2 Eagles trailed heading into the final quarter, but pulled out of it going on a 6-0 run in the first 65 seconds to take the lead for good over the third-ranked Wolverines.
Alexia Mefi’s fastbreak layup capped a 6-0 run that gave Cleveland a 40-37 lead with 6:55 to go.
And Makala Roper’s 3-pointer was the dagger, extending the Eagles’ lead to 48-41 at the 3:03 mark. Roper finished with a team-high 14 points.
“We had to figure it out,” Cleveland coach Stephanie Wheeler-Smith said. “We had to remind them there’s a lot of basketball to be played.”
The Eagles won the 3A title in 2010 over Holy Names Academy.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442